Catalina Rotary Club of Tucson
Racial Justice Work Group
Project Status Update – December 12, 2021
RJWG Committee members continue to work diligently on our three initiatives, despite the pandemic and other challenges.
Here’s what’s happening:
Erickson School Reading Program
We continue to make progress on our Reading program, although we have experienced some unexpected delays.
Dr. Praise Zenenga, our contact at the University of Arizona department of Africana Studies, has been working to select an intern. Unfortunately, we started the process after the semester had begun and Dr. Zenenga has been beset with an illness for part of the semester. Now healthy, he has secured one excellent candidate that will be able to begin on January 12, 2022, when the TUSD second semester begins. This delay was due to the candidate’s current internship requirements and course load. With those issues resolved at the end of the semester, she is eager to get started. We look forward to meeting this candidate and getting the classroom activities underway for these children in need.
We also have received the final list of books selected by the school and approved by the Tucson Unified School District. 492 books, covering 53 different titles that are age and ethnic and racially appropriate, have been ordered under our District 5500 district grant and are headed to Andy Kerr’s garage! We need some Catalina Rotarians to help us deliver these books to Erickson School before the winter break begins at TUSD! This will help maintain momentum and will build enthusiasm for the second semester internship. And we will be ordering more books in the new year!
In short, we are disappointed that we could not begin this in-school project at the beginning of the academic year. We recognize that working with multiple public education organizations requires patience. At the same time, we continue to agitate for a sense of urgency. We are encouraged by the progress now being made.
Money for a feasibility study has been donated to the Dunbar Pavillion by Catalina Rotary to the tune of $5,000 and those funds are ready to be deployed. The commencement of a feasibility study that would help evaluate potential support for and define the comprehensive campaign awaits completion of the Dunbar Pavillion’s new strategic plan. The Dunbar Board of Directors has been working hard on this plan over the past months and are working with Mark Siska, who has developed an on-line strategic planning tool. It should be noted that, with the departure of Executive Director Debi Chess last summer, the board has been reconstituted and currently has a good mixture of long term members and impactful new members recruited by the new Board President, Sam Brown. The fundraising professional who was going to execute the feasibility study, Clyde Kunz, has recently become a board member of the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona (which makes grants to non-profits). This has created a conflict of interest because the Dunbar Pavillion is a potential grantee, so Clyde had to step aside as the consultant to do the feasibility study. The Board is assessing its options in this area.
With respect to grant applications for renovation funds that Catalina Rotary Club supported with letters, Dunbar was unsuccessful in receiving the National Park Service Grant for $500,000. They did also receive constructive feedback and were encouraged to reapply this coming calendar year. An application for $537,000 in federal funds made through the offices of Congressman Raul Grijalva and Congresswoman Ann Kilpatrick is still under consideration, but slow moving due to budget negotiations in Congress.
Finally, there may be volunteering opportunities for Catalina Rotarians to provide administrative help in their office.
Network for Equity & Education Development (NEED)
● The NEED Collaborative continues to meet monthly to discuss and implement actions to support Black youth involved in the Pima County Juvenile Justice System.
● Discussions are underway to develop a spoken word project for area Black youth. Our own Bob DeLaney is co-leading the effort.
● NEED continues to distribute HOPE Baskets primarily to Black youth in group homes utilizing the 216 baskets donated by Catalina RC. Our club continues to donate hygiene items to fill the baskets.
● With the assumption that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, NEED has resumed planning events to engage Black youth in the community and their parents:
● In October, an event was held at Janet & Ray’s restaurant (22nd @ S. Craycroft) to promote NEED’s purpose and to introduce various agencies and support groups available to the community. A Q&A session was held as well as suggestions for future events were solicited.
● A second event is being planned at the Dunbar Pavilion Marketplace, for as early as December. The format will be similar to the October event and will reach a different geographic area.
● A sub-committee within NEED is being formed to study a Pima County report of trends in the county juvenile justice system. The goal is to identify causes of disproportionately higher referrals of Black youth and ways to mitigate the causes. Bob Grady is co-leading this effort.